History of Dub Music
© Steve Barrow & Peter Dalton - The Rough guide to reggae
The word 'dub' is now used throughout the world of dance music to describe a remix. It's not so widely recognized, however, that the technique of the remix was pioneered in Jamaica as far back as 1967, initially in the quest for sound-system exclusivity, but soon exploited as an economic and imaginative way of reusing already recorded rhythm tracks. Broadly speaking, the history of dub in Jamaica has passed through three phases. First there were the so-called 'instrumentals', not originally conceived as such, but becoming so by the removal of the vocal track. Initially these instrumentals were strictly for sound-system play, but before too long they were being issued commercially. Versions on which the contribution of the studio engineer was more obvious then emerged around the end of 1968, and by 1970 these remixes – called 'versions' – were appearing on the B-sides of most Jamaican singles. The producer would have the engineer remove all, (or most), of the original vocal, leaving the raw rhythm track, which could be spiced up with a deejay adding shouted exclamations and/or extra instrumentation. Besides offering further entertainment to dancers and record buyers, these 'versions' provided sound systems with tracks for their own deejays to talk, or 'toast', over. [Read more...]
Dub, in the now familiar sense of radically remixed versions, arrived in 1972, and was largely the contribution of one man: Osbourne Ruddock, aka King Tubby, boss of the leading sound system in Kingston and a superb engineer. Soon many of the leading producers were leaving their tracks at his studio to be given the Tubby treatment. During the remainder of the decade the remixes made by Tubby and his apprentices (Prince Jammy, Prince Phillip Smart and Scientist), and by other pioneers such as Errol Thompson (aka ET), added a further dimension to Jamaican music, eventually influencing dance culture worldwide.
During 1973-74 record buyers in Jamaica became accustomed to checking labels not just for the producer or artist, but also for the engineer. Records bearing a B-side credit like "King Tubby's Version" or "Drum & Bass by King Tubby's" were often selling on the strength of these, rather than their official top sides. This was also the year in which the first handful of dub albums appeared. They were usually pressed in very small quantities and disappeared quickly, but their followers were the most committed of the reggae public, and over the next few years hundreds of dub albums were issued, as every producer maximized the financial return on his vintage rhythms.
As every craze must, this eventually ran its course, and by the early 1980s few dub sets were being issued. Still, every single being pressed in Jamaica maintained what by then had become a tradition – the 'version' side. As digital technology became better integrated into Jamaican studios, a new generation of engineers came to prominence. As their experience grew, they in their turn sought to express themselves in dub. Dub has continued to exert a powerful influence on hip-hop and such dance forms as jungle, and the convention of the version continues today in Jamaica itself, even if some modern singles feature variants such as the 'acappella' version, or 'vocal remix'. With increasing frequency in recent years, 'version' sides of new Jamaican 45s have harked back to the form's golden age, particularly those mixed by the young engineers Colin 'Bulby' York and Lynford 'Fatta' Marshall. However, the revival of interest from the outside world in vintage 1970s dub has yet to prompt any return to a regular supply of new dub albums from Kingston.